Growing bamboo in pots can be a great option for small space gardens.
There are a wide variety of bamboos that will grow very well in UK gardens.
Sometimes, in fact, bamboos can grow so well that they can become invasive. Growing bamboo in pots can help restrict its spread, and also allow you to create a beautiful garden even if you don’t have any space to grow in the ground.
Not only will you find it easy to find bamboos that will grow well in containers, you will also find this a very useful crop to grow.
Bamboo can be a fairly low-maintenance option, which will not require a lot of your care and attention.
Bamboos can work very well for screening and privacy, and can also provide you with a range of yields.
Many bamboos provide edible shoots, and you can also harvest more mature bamboo canes for garden use – they can be used as plant supports and in a range of other ways.
Choosing a Bamboo
If you have decided that you would like to grow bamboo in pots, then the first step is deciding which type of bamboo to grow.
Bamboos are usually divided or categorised as running bamboos or clump-forming bamboos.
Running bamboos spread through long underground rhizomes and can increase in spread very quickly.
Clumping bamboos grow in dense clumps. These can also still spread rapidly in favourable conditions, but are generally the best choice for growing in containers.
Clumping bamboos include Bambusa, Chusquea, Fargesia, Shibataea and Thamnocalamus. However, these are not the only bamboos that can work well in pots.
A range of running bamboos can also work well in containers if properly managed.
Within both of these types, bamboos can still be extremely varied, both in their vigour and in the eventual size to which they will grow.
Some bamboos can easily grow to 5m or more in height, while dwarf varieties (also generally better for growing in pots) can be as small as 30cm or less in height.
It is therefore important to consider how large your plant will grow.
The Best Bamboo To Grow in Pots
While there are plenty of bamboo varieties that can be grown in pots, some that we recommend are:
- Chimonobambusa marmorea
- Fargesia angustissima
- Fargesia nitida
- Fargesia rufa
- Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis
- Phyllostachys humilis
- Phyllostachys nigra
- Pleioblastus viridistriatus
- Pseudosasa japonica
- Thamnocalamus tessellatus
Where to Place Bamboo in Pots
Most bamboos will thrive in a sunny and sheltered location, however, it is worth noting that there are also bamboos that can cope with some shade, and which can be positioned in a less sunny spot.
Bamboos with edible shoots might not be out of place in an edible container garden, or perhaps in a pot to the edge of a kitchen garden area.
Bamboos in containers can also work well to define the edge of a garden area or ‘garden room’.
A row of containers with bamboo plants in them can work well to create screening between different parts of your space.
They can also be used to increase privacy on the edge of a seating area, perhaps, or along the edge of your property, or to screen unsightly elements within your space.
There are plenty of ways to position bamboo in pots to create beautiful and useful effects in your garden.
There are also a number of bamboo varieties that can even be grown indoors, as houseplants, so this is another option to consider.
Some varieties which can be grown indoors are:
- Phyllostachys aurea
- Bambusa ventricosa
- Chimonobambusa marmorea
- Pleioblastus pygmaeus
- Pleioblastus fortunei
When you think about growing bamboo indoors, you might think of ‘lucky bamboo’ but this is technically not actually bamboo at all…
When To Plant Bamboo in Pots
Ideally, it is best to plant bamboo in containers in the spring.
Though you will be able to source and buy bamboo plants in pots throughout the year and can plant them up into their new containers at any time.
Just try to avoid planting up on a particularly hot and dry day, or when conditions are particularly poor, as this will increase the transplantation stress on your new plants.
Typically, a container for a bamboo plant will need to be at least 50cm deep and 50cm wide, though a larger planter can also be considered and will mean that you need to repot your bamboo less frequently.
The container or containers that you choose should allow for sufficient drainage, yet still enable you to keep the medium within sufficiently moist to suit the bamboo plants you are growing.
Make sure there are sufficient drainage holes at the base of the container and consider raising the container on feet or a stand of some kind to make sure there are no waterlogging issues.
Note that especially with running bamboos, a sturdy container is essential.
A sturdy wooden planter, for example, can withstand the roots in a way in which other containers cannot.
Avoid plastic containers, and remember that for bamboos, glazed pots are generally better than terracotta.
Bamboos require loamy soil that is slightly acidic or neutral in pH. Make sure that you choose a reasonably fertile potting mix that is moist, yet reasonably free-draining.
To improve the drainage of the container, it can be a good idea to add a layer of horticultural sand to the base of the pot.
When planting your bamboo plants into new containers or pots, make sure you position it so that it sits slightly lower than it was in its original pot.
Place your plant, add your growing medium around the sides and a little on top of the previous surface, firming it gently in place.
Water well, then mulch the surface of the container with a good quality compost to help with water retention.
Caring For Bamboo in Pots
Bamboo plants in pots will require more watering than those grown in the ground. However, they will not require a lot of time or care.
ust check the growing medium with a finger twice a week during dry weather, and if the soil is dry a few centimetres below the surface then give your plant a good drink.
Remember, bamboos generally dislike very waterlogged conditions. But they do need plenty of moisture throughout the growing season.
Bamboos in containers should be fed each spring with a nitrogen-rich organic liquid feed (such as a nettle liquid feed, or manure tea, for example).
A general liquid feed such as compost tea should be applied regularly throughout the rest of the growing season, and the organic mulch should be replenished each year.
In the first year after planting, no pruning is required. However, in subsequent years, it is a good idea to remove any canes which are dead, damaged or weak, cutting them to the surface of the growing medium.
If the clump has become congested, cut out some additional canes to let in more light and air to the centre of the plant.
Potting On and Repotting
Every few years, bamboo plants will need to be potted on into a larger container, or divided and repotted into several new pots.
If you are dividing bamboo, this is best undertaken in the spring. Use younger rhizomes from around the edges of the clump to establish new plants.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.